There are a wide variety of options when it comes to fats that we consume through our food market from mono- and polyunsaturated fats, omega-3 and omega-6 fatty acids to hydrogenated oils and trans fats. With so many fats available, it can get confusing knowing which ones to consume, have in moderation, and to avoid. So, we are here to set the fat facts straight.
- Fats are essential
Our body runs off of the energy that fat gives us, along with carbohydrates and protein. Our bodies need fat to fully function! Fats do a lot of good for you by not only giving you energy, but also by supporting cell growth, cushioning your organs, keeping you warm, and helping absorb other nutrients. Fats also make food taste good with extra flavor and texture.
- The Good, the Bad, and the Unknown
While no one food is good or bad, there are some that contain fats that we should limit or have in moderation.
Healthy fats can be characterized as fats that help lower your total cholesterol and your LDL (bad) cholesterol. They also reduce risk of stroke and heart disease. This would include mono- and polyunsaturated fats and omega-3 fatty acids. These comes from plants and fish and are generally liquid at room temperature.
Unhealthy fats can be characterized as raising cholesterol levels and increasing your risk for heart disease and stroke. They are usually animal based and solid at room temperature. These are known as saturated fats.
Fats to avoid if possible, include hydrogenated oils and trans fats. These fats are changed structurally so they can be more solid and extend the shelf life of the processed foods.
So what should you do?
- Check the Label
Evaluate the percentages and try not to go over 100% of daily values. Check the fat values to stay low in saturated fats, and check the ingredient lists. If there is less than 0.5g of trans fat in the serving, they don’t have to list it! Check the ingredients list for hydrogenated or partially hydrogenated oil.
- Cooking Smart
Instead of cooking with solid fats such as butter, shortening, and margarine try using unsaturated fats such as olive or canola oil. Also try to trim fat when possible on meats.
- Smart Switches
Try to make smart switches everyday such as using avocados or nut butter on your toast instead of butter spread.
- Cooking Methods
Go for baked or steamed options instead of fried foods! Add your own sauce or seasonings to replace the lack of fat.
- Don’t Forget the Fish!
Try to include fatty fish in your diet at least once a week for a good dose of omega-3 fatty acids, which are not only healthy fats, but also contain anti-inflammatory properties.